Menzi sighed as though in disappointment, and having helped himself to a little, re-stoppered the horn and thrust it back into the lobe of his ear. Next he said, speaking in a gentle and refined voice:
“Greeting, Teacher, who, the messengers tell us, are called Tombool in your own language and in ours _Inkunzi_. A good name, for in truth you look like a bull. I am glad to see that you are made much more robust than was the last Teacher, and therefore will live longer in this place than he did. Though as for the lady-teacher—-” and he glanced at the delicate-looking Dorcas.
Thomas stared at this man, to whom already he had taken a strong dislike. Then moved thereto either by a very natural outburst of temper, or perchance by a flash of inspiration, he replied:
“Yes, I shall live longer than did my brother, who died here and has gone to Heaven, and longer I think than you will.”
This personal remark seemed to take Menzi aback; indeed for a moment he looked frightened. Recovering himself, however, he said:
“I perceive, Teacher Tombool, that like myself you are a witch-doctor and a prophet. At present I do not know which of us will live the longer, but I will consult my Spirits and tell you afterwards.”
“Pray do not trouble to do so on my account, for I do not believe in your Spirits.”
“Of course you do not, Teacher. No doctor believes in another doctor’s Spirits, since each has his own, and there are more Spirits than there are doctors. Teacher Tombool, I greet you and tell you at once that we are at war over this matter of Spirits. This tribe, Teacher, is a cleft log, yes, it is split into two. The Chief there, Kosa, sits on one half of the log with his Christians; I sit on the other half with the rest, who are as our fathers were. So if you wish to fight I shall fight with such weapons as I have. No, do not look at the spears–not with spears. But, if you leave me and my following alone, we shall leave you alone. If you are wise I think that you will do well to walk your own road and suffer us to walk ours.”
“On the contrary,” answered Thomas, “I intend that all the Sisa people shall walk one road, the road that leads to Heaven.”
“Is it so, Teacher?” Menzi replied with a mysterious smile.
Then he turned his head and looked at the darkling river that just here, where it ran beneath an overhanging ledge of the koppie, was very deep and still. Thomas felt that there was a world of meaning in his look, though what it might be he did not know. Suddenly he remembered that this river was named Death.
After Menzi had looked quite a long while, once more he saluted as though in farewell, searching the faces of the three white people, especially Tabitha’s, with his dreamy eyes and, letting them fall, searching the ground also. Near to where he stood grew a number of veld flowers, such as appear in their glory after the rains in Africa. Among these was a rare and beautiful white lily. This lily Menzi plucked, and stepping forward, presented it to Tabitha, saying:
“A flower for the Flower! A gift to a child from one who is childless!”
Her father saw and meditated interference. But he was too late; Tabitha had already taken the lily and was thanking Menzi in his own tongue, which she knew well enough, having been brought up by Zulu nurses. He smiled at her, saying:
“All Spirits, black or white, love flowers.”
Then for a third time he saluted, not the others, but Tabitha, with more heartiness than before, and turning, departed, followed by his spearmen, who also saluted Tabitha as they filed in front of her.
It was a strange sight to see these great plumed men lifting their broad spears to the beautiful bright-haired child who stood there holding the tall white lily in her hand as though it were a sceptre.